The New York Jets have finally come to their senses and will no longer start Wayne Hunter at right tackle, and it’s certainly been a long time coming. It’s sad to see this happen as a New England Patriots writer, since there’s nothing I love more than watching him struggle against the Pats at least twice a year. I mean, I was really looking forward to watching Rob Ninkovich hand it to him play after play.
The Jets have named Austin Howard as the team’s starter, and he should actually be a minor upgrade despite having just four career appearances and being an undrafted free agent out of Northern Iowa in 2010.
Howard is an interesting player, because he used to play tight end at NIU and has incredible athleticism and a big frame at 6’7″, 333 pounds. He used to play basketball in college as well and has quick feet; great for a man of his size. Howard’s inexperience makes him a question mark, but he has more upside than Hunter. That’s a given looking at how Hunter always struggles.
He actually started in one game for the Philadelphia Eagles and was a steal for them after being picked up as a UDFA (Howard Mudd loves his athletic OLs). He was the backup to King Dunlap and was picked up by the Jets in November of last year after being the backup LT for Philadelphia and then a member of the Baltimore Ravens practice squad.
Wayne Hunter has no upside at the age of 31, and his displays in the preseason have been just as bad as his displays in the regular season. His play against the New York Giants was as appalling as it gets (three sacks allowed, fourth negated by penalty), and Hunter does nothing right at the position. He can’t pass block (8.5 sacks allowed last season) and gets penalized all the time. He’s still going to be the team’s primary backup, but Howard actually looks better than Hunter. He should be a better pass blocker, but his inexperience is of great concern. Still, I would rather have youth and inexperience than age and (insert derogatory comment about Hunter’s ability here).
Funny how Rex Ryan kept repeating “We’re not looking for a right tackle” in an effort to fool us and, more importantly, himself. Hunter stinks, while Howard looked good in training camp in 2010 and has never been given a proper chance since the 2010 season. You can point to the fact that maybe the Eagles thought he was bad, and that’s a fair point. Howard is probably not going to be close to an average starter- especially not right off- but he is more athletic than Hunter and is worth the shot. It’s the preseason, and the Jets should give him a lot of reps as opposed to Hunter, because we all know Hunter’s far from an average starter.
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